The Work of an Evangelist
Today, we lost a hero of the faith. Ravi Zacharias is home with Jesus. For decades, Ravi has done the work of an apologist and an evangelist, “keeping his head in all situations,” as Paul encouraged Timothy.
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
2 Timothy 4:5
If ever someone lived out the Apostle Peter’s admonition to “always be prepared to give an answer,” it was Ravi Zacharias.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15
Ravi Zacharias was a shining example of sharing the truth of Scripture and the gospel in a hopeful, joy-filled manner while always treating skeptics and adversaries with gentleness and respect. God gave him a brilliant mind, which he used to skillfully and thoughtfully answer the questions of the skeptical and confused alike without belittling them.
Ravi’s prayer in his final days was that more people would come to know the saving grace found in Jesus Christ through his passing as a result of the legacy of his life and his words, as well as through the team of evangelists at RZIM that he poured his life into.
On February 21st, 2018, Billy Graham went home to be with Jesus. He was a long-time hero of mine. While attending Wheaton College Graduate School, which is housed in the Billy Graham Center, I would frequently walk through the Billy Graham Museum, praying and reflecting on God’s call on my life. I was invited years later to attend Amsterdam 2000, a gathering of almost 11,000 pastors and evangelists from over 200 countries and territories, hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Just a year earlier, I had left the church I was serving as the Teaching Pastor at to respond to God’s call to be a full-time evangelist and join the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). I’d become convinced that the first dozen years I’d spent in vocational ministry as a youth pastor, church planter and teaching pastor was filled with restlessness because I was functioning as a teacher-pastor. God’s Spirit used Ephesians 4:11-12 to make it clear that my call was that of evangelist-apostle, not pastor-teacher.
One of the key verses God used to solidify that call also happened to be the theme verse for Amsterdam 2000.
“For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
1 Corinthians 9:16
“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Those words rang in my ears. I could not escape them. An evangelist. This was God’s call.
Ravi Zacharias spoke the second night of Amsterdam 2000 on Evangelistic Preaching in the 21st Century. I still have his notes twenty years later. Ravi concluded with this profound question that still rings true today.
Ravi answered that question for us by challenging us to:
- Live lives that make the gospel visible.
- Realize that the truth can’t merely be argued. It must be experienced and felt.
- Be willing to pay the price for the gospel. Your sacrifice and your service, far more than your intelligent arguments, prove that you believe what you preach.
Apostle. Prophet. Evangelist. Pastor. Teacher. We are not all called to be evangelists like Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias. We are, however, all called to do the work of an evangelist. We are all called to live out the Great Commission and make new disciples.
Doing the work of an evangelist, for most pastors, involves preaching the gospel from the pulpit or sharing the gospel personally with those who approach them at church after a service or sit down with them in their office. I would like to suggest that perhaps a more important place for “professional christians” to do the work of an evangelist is in their everyday life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Everyone in your church that you’re leading expects you to “do the work of an evangelist” on Sundays or at the office as a part of your job. Where they really need to see you do the work of an evangelist is when it’s not your job, when you’re in their world. This is how you model for others what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a disciple who makes disciples.
Do the work of an evangelist in your neighborhood.
Do the work of an evangelist at the gym.
Do the work of an evangelist when you sit in the dentist’s chair.
Do the work of an evangelist when you go to Target.
Do the work of an evangelist when you’re with your family.
Do the work of an evangelist when you go to Starbucks.
Do the work of an evangelist where lost people live, work, eat, and play.
On my 5K Every Day in the Month of May challenge, I’ve been connecting with other joggers on the trail outside our neighborhood, praying for God to open the doors for opportunities to share the good news. I’ve run/walked and talked several times now with Russ, a nominal Buddhist who moved to the US from Cambodia when he was just fifteen and lost his wife just months ago to early-onset Alzheimers. I’ve prayed with Russ for him to experience God’s presence and know God’s peace in the midst of his pain. Pray for him to meet the Savior who loves him so dearly.
Today, let us be inspired by the life of one of God’s faithful, humble servants, Ravi Zacharias, to do the work of an evangelist, always being prepared to give an answer for our hope in Christ, doing so with gentleness and respect, because we are compelled by God’s love to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.
There would be no more fitting way to honor the legacy of Ravi Zacharias during this month of May, Global Outreach Month, than to bring the good news he so treasured to a world that so desperately needs it.